To be frank, San Diego State got absolutely screwed last year. The Aztecs’ played with more consistently this season before winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament to earn an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Steve Fisher has found a way to manage egos and maximize the skill level of his versatile team. SDSU is certainly used to playing good competition given the success of the MWC this season.
ToTheTin presents a closer look at the San Diego State Aztecs:
Key wins: Arizona, UNLV (Twice, including in MWC Tournament Championship), New Mexico
Interesting losses: @Arizona State, @ Saint Mary’s (lost 80-58), BYU (Twice)
SDSU is athletic, long, and versatile squad with eight legitimate players. The Aztecs get after it defensively and are a high-effort team. Kawhi Leonard, Billy White, and Malcolm Thomas are basically interchangeable—long, lanky, and active. The freshman Leonard scored 16 points and collected 21 boards against UNLV in the MWC title game, giving him a remarkable 17 double-doubles this season. He is a solid NBA prospect with the ability to step outside on occasion. White, Thomas, and point guard D.J. Gay make San Diego State one of the more veteran teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Gay has experience but he and his backcourt mates are clearly the weakest link. San Diego State lacks a consistent threat to get the basket and create a shot from the perimeter. Gay and Chase Tapley are decent 3-point threats, but the Aztecs are not a good shooting team overall. Free throws can also be a problem, making SDSU vulnerable in close games.
Tennessee is a perfect matchup for San Diego State. However, San Diego State is also a perfect matchup for Tennessee. The Aztecs could certainly advance, setting up an intriguing meeting with the best No. 3 seed in the tournament, Georgetown, in the Second Round. SDSU is a very good team with a tenacious mentality. In the immortal words of Kevin Garnett, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”